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ELIAS FREIJ DIES; MAYOR OF BETHLEHEM 25 YEARS

Elias Freij, the mayor of Bethlehem for 25 years and a confidant of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, died Sunday of kidney and heart failure. He was 80.

Freij died in an Amman hospital, where he was admitted a week ago for dialysis, said Dr. Samir Saqr, a physician at the Arab Center for Heart Surgery.

Freij's body was to be moved to Bethlehem today, said Omar Khatib, a Palestinian Authority representative in Jordan. He said the funeral will be held Tuesday.

Freij, a Greek Orthodox Christian, retired last May after serving 25 years as mayor of Bethlehem, which has a Muslim majority.

Freij maintained close contact with the Palestine Liberation Organization during the exile years leading up to a 1993 agreement with Israel that allowed Palestinian self-rule in parts of the West Bank.

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